JENNI MURRAY: Making IVF a work perk is a cynical betrayal of women

JENNI MURRAY: Making IVF a work perk is a cynical betrayal of women

  • Jenni Murray discusses the problem of making IVF a perk of working
  • She asks if Emma Corrin is taking her role as Diana in The Crown too seriously
  • Jenni also questions whether climate change is affecting the number of birds

There can hardly be an ambitious working woman anywhere who doesn’t feel a sense of panic as the ticking of her biological clock begins to deafen her. She was told as a girl she could become anything she wanted to be. She worked hard at school, university and then her demanding dream job. She is slowly climbing the greasy pole to success.

She’s also in her 30s and longing to be a mother. She knows her fertility is declining. Her partner is keen on fatherhood, but she’s only too well aware that pregnancy, childbirth and being a parent will make huge demands on her time and energy, and not all employers are as accommodating as they should be. Will she slide down that slippery pole?

I was lucky. Pregnancy came relatively easily and my employer and husband were with me all the way. Friends of mine rarely enjoyed such support.

Jenni Murray (pictured) explains why offering IVF to women as a work benefit is a mistake

Now, riding to the rescue of all those working women comes Eileen Burbidge, the Government’s technology tsar, a mother-of-five who is said to be one of Britain’s most powerful businesswomen.

Companies, she says, should offer fertility treatment. Egg freezing and IVF should be employee benefits on a par with pensions and health insurance. Young people in their 20s don’t worry about their retirement, she claims, but they may well be anxious about reproductive health.

I couldn’t disagree with her more profoundly. Yes, IVF is a wonderful technology, but it’s far from a surefire solution, with the success rate about 22 per cent, according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.

The authority also says egg freezing works about a fifth of the time, but Lord (Robert) Winston has warned only about 1 per cent of frozen eggs lead to a baby. That’s a significant proportion of women going through painful treatment with no success.

Jenni says that the 22 per cent success rate of the treatment will leave those women who were unsuccessful wondering if they should have started trying for children sooner (stock image)

It seems wrong to give that ambitious, young employee a false sense of security that the firm has paid for her to freeze her eggs, will fund her treatment when she decides the time is right, maybe in her 40s, only for her to be full of regrets if it fails. Only then, will she wish she’d tried earlier to do it in the conventional and rather more pleasurable manner.

What does the proposal say about the demands employers make on their female workers? Do they not want to employ women with children?

I’ve often said to up-and-coming women that they won’t experience the front line of the sex war until they have a child. Then they’ll be the ones in their relationship expected to go part-time, with their commitment to the job constantly questioned. This is just the latest skirmish in that war, as employers offer women tempting ways to ‘delay’ that hassle.

As for the pensions question, the idea that young people aren’t thinking about how they’ll survive when retirement comes around is terrifying. Believe me, those 40-odd years will fly by, and the State pension won’t keep you in fine food and holidays.

So let’s not mention IVF as a perk in the same breath as a solid pension. Employers must accept that people have careers and children. Instead, how about making part-time work freely available for both mothers and fathers?

Then they can continue to pursue their careers while sharing the load as parents. And it might finally put paid to the idea that childcare is only women’s work.

WHAT ON EARTH HAS EMMA GOT UP HER SLEEVE?

After appearing on The Graham Norton Show ahead of the new season of The Crown in a black outfit with large sleeves, Jenni Murray questions whether Emma Corrin (pictured) is taking her role as Princess Diana too seriously

Bring on the next series of The Crown! It’s perfect binge-watching material for these long, dark days of lockdown two. I did wonder, though, watching The Graham Norton Show, if Emma Corrin is taking her role as Diana a little too seriously.

Diana famously wore a few rather fussy, puffy sleeves, but what did Emma think was attractive about the black balloons on her upper arms that made her look like a character from a horror film?

And the style-savvy Diana gave up puff sleeves, apparently, because she thought they looked unflattering in photographs. She was right.

SMACKING MY SON WAS AN ACT OF VIOLENCE

In last week’s column, I said I had never experienced domestic violence. On reflection, that wasn’t strictly true.

As a child, my every misbehaviour was met with a severe spanking from my mother and being made to sit on the bottom step for an hour.

My father was much more successful. He never laid a finger on me, confident that a good talking to would sort me out.

When it came to having my own children, I was determined to follow his example.

Yet, on one occasion, I was driven to distraction by the pair of them and slapped the older one hard. I knew it immediately for what it was — an act of violence — and I have never felt more guilty and ashamed of myself. I never did it again.

So well done to the Scottish Government for making smacking illegal.

Yes, they can be frustrating, but if you wouldn’t hit an adult, you should never hit a child.

WHERE HAVE THE BIRDS GONE? 

Jenni said that one of her great pleasures is watching the birds from her kitchen window, but that this year she hasn’t seen any (stock image of goldfinches)

One of my great pleasures is gazing out of the kitchen window, watching my two regular visitors, a pair of goldfinches, gobbling the seeds I put out for them.

In autumn, they’re followed to the bird table by a friendly little robin. But this year, nothing. Had the dogs or the cat scared them off or hunted them down? Impossible. The cat wears a bell and the dogs had never bothered the birds previously.

Then I saw worrying reports that British garden birds risk being wiped out by climate change, according to Oxford University.

I fear it may be happening already. My neighbour, Caryll, shares my passion. In our texts, she says: ‘Still no birds. I can’t bear it.’ Neither can I.

The search for the mole who leaked details of the lockdown in England before it was announced to MPs continues. Boris Johnson has been advised to hand out different versions of sensitive documents to suspects to see which version is leaked.

Curious that the Prime Minister may be adopting a footballer’s wife’s tactic.

Remember the ‘Wagatha Christie’ row when Coleen Rooney used a similar system to root out leaks from her private Instagram account and then accused Rebekah Vardy of being the culprit? Quite the Wag, BoJo!

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